It is always good to receive feedback on a translation, even if it is not always positive. It is unfortunate how often clients do not like a translation, as it creates a great deal of frustration for both the client and the supplier. If the project is multilingual, it also presents the coordinator of the project with a dilemma he/she cannot judge: who’s right? The qualified professional or the technical expert (who also happens to be my colleague…) this problem inevitably creates a dent in confidence in the supplier’s quality of service.
This sort of (negative) feedback is absolutely inevitable in our business. Here are a few arguments to help you deal with this sort of situation
Frustration with a translation happens most often when the final client (the person who actually uses the translated material) has not been in direct contact with the translator himself. Not knowing who carried out the translation creates a subconscious lack of trust and a negative predisposition to the translated documentation (think of how many “corrections” most people like adding to someone else’s written materials…). Also, a translation, which is perceived by the user as “sub-optimal”, creates a high degree of frustration and irritation, and we often exaggerate how bad it really is. A few mistakes/discrepancies/preferences can lead to a reaction that is way out of proportion (“it was awful”, “I had to re-write it”, etc.). Ring a bell?
In order to be able to respond to such comments, your client’s general comments (“it requires a retranslation”) are not really enough of a basis for corrective action. Comments such as “it was too literal”, “there were too many mistakes”, “the style was too free/literal”, etc. do not help either, as they do not form any basis for discussion. In order to do anything about it, translators need specific feedback on actual sentences and terms and the client’s suggestions and alternatives. Unfortunately, this is normally very difficult to obtain, as it requires a significant amount of the client’s time spent on the document, time the client is neither willing nor capable of spending. If he were, however, translators are more than happy to analyse all his suggestions in detail and give their professional opinion on each one.
Ideally, the deliverable from this analysis is a list of comments (one per suggestion) where suggestions are classified into one of the following 5 categories: “Correction”, “Possible correction”, “Terminology preference”, “Stylistic preference” or “New text”.
Statistically speaking, the instances of “Terminology preference”, “Stylistic preference” or “New text” typically represent 90% of the so-called “mistakes” or “errors” in translation. Obviously, this is not always the case, but it does mean that most “errors” pointed out by clients are not really errors at all.
Continue reading Quality In Translation Part 2 – the translator’s view